This restaurant has been on my bucket list for a while now. Chef Dominique Crenn has become intensely well-known, especially following her MasterClass and appearance on Chef's Table. And this, her flagship, is a very difficult reservation to get. We counted 10 tables in the dining room - 1 seating per night.
It lives up to the hype.
It helps to know a little about Chef Crenn. She is French, exuberant and romantic as the day is long. For example, take a look at our menu for the evening, which is entirely written as a poem. Above our table sat another poem she wrote, immediately following her father's passing. His artwork adorns the entire restaurant. The menu QR placard features art from a local woman who dined there and was doodling some art. Chef Crenn saw this and commissioned her to work for the restaurant. She is a woman who loves beauty in all forms, and the restaurant is a complete expression of it.
She is also passionately committed to sustainability. You see that too - from the reuse of ingredients (such as the crab shells to make a broth), to sustainable wineries and fisheries and even being told how the kitchen uses glass storage containers (not plastic) and garbage is repurposed for compost on their farm. She is not playing environmentalist. She is deeply committed to it.
As such, the menu is pescatarian, for sustainability reasons. The restaurant doesn't even use beef or chicken stock. It's an impressive commitment that somehow, does not hold them back from delivering a meal that lives in the stratosphere.
The entire meal centers around Chef Crenn. From the poems and painings to family recipies ("This is Chef's Crenn's grandmother's bread recipe...") to dishes described from her own personal inspiration found within them. Even the name "Atelier" means "workshop" - an homage to her father's workshop she grew up in. One will find more meaning to eating here if they familiarize themselves with its namesake Chef.
Enough of all that. The food!
These are the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. Each one is literally breathtaking. Aside from the vision to create such beauty, the amount of prep work required to deliver a meal like this boggles the mind.
Flavors followed suit. This was high level cooking that produced some of the most memorable and delicious bites I have ever enjoyed. The shiso leaf/mole may be the most beautiful AND the most delicious dish I have ever had. Their presentation of French Onion soup is mystifying in its beauty and blows you away with the flavor combinations. Inventive, creative and delicious. I said to my dining partner: "THIS dish is why I eat at places like this." The pine needle wafer dessert (also in the form of a leaf) was also spellbinding.
Food that looks and tastes this good gives an inertia to the meal that can't be described. "If this dish was that incredible, what is the NEXT dish going to be??" This experience was bolstered by the excellent wines and a staff that was friendly, formal and real. (A terrific contrast to the staid service at Quince the night before.)
This is a place you could eat at again and again. It's everything you want high level dining to be.
Chef Crenn's empire is expanding as her fame grows. I'm hopeful that she is able to keep this restaurant delivering at this high a level as she expands. Atelier Crenn is a special delivery of top notch dining. I am honored to have eaten here.